13th July 2011
It is very difficult being in the Old Tearooms today …. I am faced with such a dilemma …. how on Earth do I make a choice from the mouthwatering offerings in the cake cabinet!!!
Heidi has been baking this week. There in pride of place on the top shelf are the fruits of her labour. Raspberry Pear Marsala Crumble, Raspberry Frangipani Tarts and Orange and Poppyseed tart (with orange syrup), nestled beside the Carrot Cake, Quiches and Breakfast tarts. I want to try them all! How can I write about them unless I know what they taste like? What a tough job…. (smiles) Oh well – someone’s got to do it!
I go with the Breakfast tart, a delightfully light filo pastry tart containing spring onions, sweet potato, and bacon (among other things) and topped with a perfect egg. Warmed up, it’s light and savoury delivery certainly hit the spot! As for the Frangipani tarts, all I can say is “melt in the mouth”!! The pastry so light, the flavour so immaculate and delicate….. it’s almost a shame to weigh it down with that dollop of fresh cream! I said…”Almost!”
I hear Brenda announce to a customer “For today’s soup we have roasted sweet potato, ginger and carrot soup topped with cashew nut cream” and on a chill winter’s day, that too makes my senses drool!
Brenda is smiling big time today. She is the first to admit that although she is an accomplished baker of just about anything delicious, she has never managed to bake a quiche that she was happy with. No matter which recipe she tried, none would turn out to her satisfaction. In fact she had resigned herself to never being able to turn out a quality quiche for her café. Until today…. In a spirit of generosity that is very rare amongst professional bakers and cooks, the owner of a local restaurant shared his quiche recipe with Brenda. She tells me this is a really big deal, a HUGE deal….. Chefs just do not share recipes! But she had openly confessed to him, that she was unable to cook a good quiche and he had shared his knowledge with her. And (drum roll please) she was about to cut it before our eyes. I am happy to say, it looked divine (I can’t say I tasted it, but those who did gave it the definite thumbs up!) and even better, Brenda, her own harshest critic, was truly satisfied with the result as well! She admitted to feeling genuine joy in this simple achievement – for her, like so many of us, finding that spark of creativity in daily life puts everything in perspective, it’s a thread that weaves its way through our daily lives but is often overlooked or lost by all the other matters we have to deal with. In Brenda’s words, “I lose myself in the busy-ness but I find myself in my creativity.” A truth that is simple, but profound.
Stories continue to play out around us in these old rooms. Families and couples come in, stay a while, and almost reluctantly leave. Alone at a table, one woman sits staring into her tea. She looks unsettled, even downright miserable. She is waiting for a phone call from the vet. Her beloved dog is very ill, and is currently undergoing exploratory surgery to diagnose the problem. But because this is an older dog, the prognosis is not looking good. The phone rings, and the woman jumps, as do we all, knowing that she is waiting on this call. We hear her say “It is for the best” and chokes out instructions for her dog to be allowed to pass away under anaesthetic. As her tears fall, there is not a dry eye in the room, as Brenda and Heidi behind the counter, as well as myself, witness the grief. We know the pain of loving our fur friends, the dogs, and cats and other creatures that share our lives and are as much a part of us as our children or parents or friends. There are hugs, there are tears, it is a sad moment in the café, but hopefully the kindness surrounding her at this moment helps ease the pain a little. “It is the final act of love” declares Brenda. And we reassure this woman that she has indeed done the right thing by her beautiful dog, even though her heart is breaking and she feels like a limb has been torn away. “Let them go knowing they are loved” I think to myself, a lesson I have had thrust on me far too many times in my own life….. “If they have known love, their lives are justified and they will live on in our hearts”.
The most amazing story unfolds as two women come in for coffee and a chat and take it to the green couch. They are old school friends….and have known each other for almost forty years, but one lives locally, and the other has flown in from Byron Bay after being away for over thirty years. They have not seen each other in nearly five years, so the conversation flows as freely as the coffee, rich with tales of children, grandchildren, parents, and lives that wander not only around the country but also the world, and yet return to swap stories on the old couch by the fire.
But what is truly incredible is this – when the eastern states friend, for the purpose of this story, we’ll call her Jani, enters the old Courthouse Gallery, her eyes are wide and she exclaims with a grin that this is indeed, a blast from the past.
“The last time I was in this room, it was before the Magistrate, who was sitting up there behind that bench” she exclaims, pointing to the Judge’s bench. “I was in the box down here” she says, pointing to the witness stand.
“Are you serious?” asks her local friend “That must have been a very long time ago – the police department and gaol cells ceased operations in this building in 1976!”
Jani went on to share her story. She was only eleven, and had been caught shoplifting “a 22 cent chocolate bar from Killerby’s”.
“Ha!” she says… “The same block of chocolate costs over four dollars these days!” The policeman had brought her here to stand before the Magistrate, who in turn, had ordered her to be locked up in the gaol cells for a period of time as punishment .
Jani described how terrified she was – “the smell was awful, the worst smell of urine and other stuff, and I was afraid to sit down or touch anything because of the germs! IT was horrible!” She walked down to the old exercise yard and said “this is where they locked me, but it didn’t look or feel as nice as this!”
(The exercise yard is now clean, and whitewashed, no longer used as a toilet, and has a skylight and roof over the top, instead of being open to the weather – it has been revamped and is now the art studio for local artist Celia Clare and certainly has a whole different energy to it.) All that remains as testimony to the lives that were put on hold in that small room and the sorry history of the building, is the original door leading out to the courtyard, which remains marked with the graffiti – a little sign of the past history of these four walls)
“The walls were all scratched and carved with names and comments and dates – there was not a space left unmarked” she says. “But I never stole anything again” she said, with a grin “that experience certainly scared me off doing that kind of thing ever again!”
There were quite a few giggles about it, but the most astonishing thought I have is this ….. can you imagine this happening today? Seriously? Just imagine the furore, if a police officer took a young person caught shoplifting, especially a girl, before a magistrate (without a lawyer or parent) and then, locked her in a gaol cell where there were men in neighbouring cells? Just to give her a fright! The political, legal and moral fallout would be immense!!! And yet, ironically, this experience DID the trick and certainly cured one young woman of any desire to break the law again. Somehow the thought occurs to me that it’s a shame this same treatment can’t be applied to some of the young offenders out there today !!!
So for Jani, it was a full circle moment where she got to relive a childhood experience but in a building completely transformed from the one of her youth, and certainly happier, “cleaner” times….
I have some real treasures to share today, from our talented café patrons….. many have been held over from other weeks and saved for the right moment to bring them out!
This one, titled “A New Anthem for Australia” – enjoy with a smile.
Australians all love Aunty Joyce,
For she is forty three.
She cooks her food in olive oil,
And drinks her Bushells Tea.
Her lounge is filled with useless junk,
It’s scattered everywhere.
She goes to town by bus each day
And never pays her fare!
(David Magnus 24-6-2011)
I wish I was a glow worm
‘Coz glow worms are not glum,
How can you be miserable
When the sun shines out your bum!
I wanted to show my wife who was in charge,
So I gave her a mirror…
From humour to emotion…
Angels are near
Can you feel them there?
Do you believe
That they really care?
They come close
When you’re feeling blue,
Singing their heavenly
Song for you.
They will always
To comfort you
When you cry.
So close your eyes
And rest awhile,
The angels like
To see you smile!
I once had a farm in Africa…
However it all came to grief
We saw Busselton
Lived happily ever after!
And you with your fortresses ray, in the coldness of time.
Doing nothing more, than watching it all pass you by.
Sure it’s easier than being any kind of investment in life,
Find your money, find your home,
There’s nothing more to being alive.
– Kim Churchill
(Tayla Van 11-6-2011)
I’d rather sit on a pumpkin
Than be crowded on a velvet cushion
Golden threads like a sparkling stream
Wander through my angel dream.
Are the threads in the wings so fair?
Or might them be the angel’s hair?
It matters not, they intertwine
These threads of gold in my dream sublime.
So go to sleep my child so fair
With your angel eyes and your angel hair,
And drift away on angel wings,
Dreaming your dreams while the angel sings.
“Somewhere over the rainbow…..” plays gently through the rooms…
Somewhere loved ones run free from earthly pain and challenges, and spirits smile, while tears fall on Earth and we watch our lives turn in cycles, coming back to nudge us into sharing our stories, twisting and folding back to reveal those enduring threads of creativity and heart.
It is good to be back…. This place does indeed “feel like home, to me”….. I see the smiles, I breathe in the warmth and aromas of good food, I feel the heat of the fire and hear its soft crackle above the old songs playing on the radio… I have time today, for me… I have all the time in the world and it feels good. Does it get any better than this?